by Christopher Howse POPE JOHN PAUL warned world leaders that they must stop abusing freedom if they want to avoid war, in his message for New Year's day, the 14th World Day of Peace.
The message, called To Serve Peace, Respect Freedom. clearly takes to task oppressors in the Communist bloc and Latin American countries, such as El Salvador, though it mentions no names.
The Pope says: "Freedom is wounded when the relationships between peoples are based not upon respect for the equal dignity of each, but upon the right of the most powerful, upon the attitude of dominant blocs and upon military or political imperialism. The freedom of nations is wounded when small nations are forced to align themselves with large ones, in order to ensure their right to independent existence or survival."
He adds: "Nor is there any true freedom when internal security is Set up as the single and supreme norm regulating relationships between authority and the citizen, as if it were the only means — or the main one — of obtaining peace. In this context. one cannot ignore the problem of systematic or selective repression — accompanied by assassination and torture, cases of disappearance or banishment — suffered by so many people, including bishops. priests, religious and Christian lay people working in the service of their neighbour."
Other words ofcondemnation could be applied to regimes like that in South Africa, or in many Western nations. "There is no true freedom — which is the foundation of peace — when all powers are concentrated in the hands of a single social class, a single race or a single group., or when the common good is merged with the interests of a single party that is identified with the State."
While it seems that most of the world falls under the Pope's categories of places where there is abuse of freedom, he addresses his message to leaders of nations, builders of peace, citizens of the world and "young people, who dare to dream of a better world", with a definite optimism.
"I do this from a powerful conviction: that peace is possible, but that it is also something that has to be continually won, a good thing that has to be attained through ever renewed efforts."
He then calls for a fresh examination of the conditions for peace: "Peace must be realised in truth; it must be built upon justice; it must be animated by love; it must be brought to being in freedom."
In addition to State encroachments on freedom, there are social problems.
"It is hard to describe as truly free those men and women who lack the guarantee of honest and adequate employment."
"At the level of the mind, freedom can also suffer from manipulation of various kinds.
This is the case when the social communicatons media misuse their power and disregard strict objectivity. It is also the case when psychological procedures are used without regard for the dignity of the person."
As in his encyclicals. Redemptor Hominis and Dives in Misericordia. the Pope finds the root of his hope for peace and freedom in the dignity God has given man. "Becuase he has been created in God's image. man is inseparable from freedom, that freedom which no external force or constraint can ever take away, and which constitutes his fundamental right, both as an individual and as a member of society."
Because of man's relation to God, religious freedom becomes the basis of the other freedoms. This was the Pope's message to the Madrid conference in reviewing the Helsinki agreements.
Self-styled free nations need not be complacent as the Pope adds that some kinds of freedom do not really deserve the name. "For example, the consumer society — that excess of goods not needed by man — can in a way constitute an abuse of freedom, when the more and more insatiable pursuit of goods is not subjected to the law of justice and social love."
"The existence of areas of absolute poverty in the world and the existence of hunger and malnutrition pose a serious question to the countries that have developed freely. without regard for those countries lacking even the minimum and perhaps at times at their expense."
"Finally, true freedom is not advanced in the permissive society, which confuses freedom with licence."
Towards the end of the 4,000 word message Pope John Paul addresses those united with him in belief in Christ. They share the freedom of the children of God. he says. "To be set free from injustice, fear, constraint and suffering would be useless, if we were to remain slaves in the depths of our hearts, slaves of sin."